The first night of Anomalous Music in the basement of Morbid Anatomy: seventeenth-century attempts to notate the music of fairies and orchestras of subterranean beings, clarinet interpretations of UFO racket recorded in the night sky of Arizona, the terrifyingly gentle songs attributed to banshees (which sound like the onset of severe hypothermia, infinitely dangerous comforting warmth), and some of Rosemary Brown’s repertoire – a spiritualist medium/channeler who spent the 1960s performing musical dictation from the restive souls of Debussy, Bach, Beethoven and others. The ghost of Liszt was her constant companion, and according to her magnificently peculiar autobiography Unfinished Symphonies (1971) went grocery shopping with her and helped her choose bananas.
Rosemary Brown and the soul of Liszt picked out bananas together in London in 1969. It reads like the start of an Ashbery poem.
“Neither of them was in the least afraid. While we are young the idea of death or failure is intolerable to us; even the possibility of ridicule we cannot bear. But we also have an unconquerable faith in our own stars, and in the impossibility of anything venturing to go against us. As we grow old we slowly come to believe that everything will turn out badly for us, and that failure is in the nature of things; but then we do not much mind what happens to us one way or the other. In this way a balance is obtained.” (Isak Dinesen, “The Deluge at Norderney”)
Wide-open horizons, full of promise, in just over a minute.
I’m going to be giving a talk at Swarthmore on Thursday. (The poster is pretty kick-ass, with all credit for every aspect, including title and topic listing, to Nabil! I’ll never be able to live up to it.) If you’re in Philadelphia this coming week and would like to meet up, drop me line.
(Thanks for reading, as ever.)
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